Advancing the Science

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August 3rd, 2009

Putting Zebrafish in the Classroom

By Elizabeth Zimmermann Young

Although the science proficiency scores are going up in Minnesota (read story in Star Tribune), 46% proficiency doesn't seem to be hitting the mark. In a state with so many renowned scientific institutions - 3M, Boston Scientific, IBM, Mayo Clinic, Medtronic, Seagate, University of Minnesota and more; there is a plethora of opportunities to engage real scientists, teachers and kids in a creative and educational way. So what is being done to connect the educational system with real life scientists and to bring science alive for our kids?


Mayo Clinic researcher Stephen Ekker, Ph.D., and Principal Jim Sonju of Lincoln K-8 Choice – a Rochester, Minn., public school, have developed a program that is going to add life to science education in Minnesota. With the energy and enthusiasm that these two have, and the support of their ever-growing list of collaborators, I think we can expect to see benefits well beyond Minnesota – they already have collaborators in India who plan to Skype™ in during the school year. 

Personally, I think their results are nothing short of amazing. Picture elementary school teachers, quite possibly more at home with Sesame Street™, in a cutting-edge laboratory discovering new genetic strains of zebrafish – and loving it! Imagine 14-year-old kids taking time out from their Wii™ to use their video gaming skills to dechorionate these same fish (help teeny-tiny fish out of their embryonic membranes) using precision tweezers and a high-power microscope. The excitement is palpable.

 This is just a little of what's been going on at Mayo Clinic lately, and summer 'Fish Camp' is only the start (see video). The 30+ research modules and expanded curriculum that the Lincoln teachers have been developing in Dr. Ekker's lab will be used in the classroom this year. Kids of all ages will learn that 'everyone is a scientist' - if you have a question and look for answers, that's science.

Stay tune for more, this is only the beginning...and did I mention this project was launched using stimulus money? These folks are changing the paradigm, and I hope Secretary Duncan (related story) can find some other ways to engage our youth - they are the future!

Editor's note: Elizabeth Zimmermann handles education communications for Mayo's Center for Translational Science Activities (CTSA).

Tags: community outreach, Lincoln K-8, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota, People, science education, zebrafish


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